Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good riddance...

2009 has been one of those years.  And how.  The first three months of 2009 I spent wondering first if I'd have to let people go, and second if I'd have to close the doors and look for a real job elsewhere.  The six after that was treading water business-wise - only the last few months have seen anything resembling growth or security.  I'm not where I was in 2008, but I'm still open for business and that's a Win.

The rest of life this year wasn't nearly as bad, but still a challenge.  Our beloved son has been a handful all year - I think instead of seeing Jane's being home with him as a blessing he sees it as an entitlement.  He was sick during our vacation (and it rained all week).  We had to throw a lot of money at upgrading/replacing the HVAC in our house - stuff that'll pay off in time but not for a while.  It was just that kind of year.

All that negativity aside, we survived intact, mostly healthy, and without losing our shirts or going into debt.  My business is positioned well for 2010.  Difficult as our son can be, he's still bright and personable (most of the time!).  We've got the big expenses out of the way now in our home, and we've lived here long enough that there's not too many surprises left.  And all three humans (and one cat) in our home will see the sun come up tomorrow on a world that is hopefully a little better than it was when the sun set before.

Paul Krugman called the decade just past the "zeros".  I'm not with him for the decade, but the year 2009?  I'll go with that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The next netbook

I'm still using an Eee 901 I bought last year, upgraded with a 16GB SSD and 2GB of RAM.  It is running Windows 7 Professional and does a perfectly adequate job for me when I need cheap, light, and long-lasting.  I didn't replace it this year for a few reasons - first, I'm watching the company expenses as carefully as I can, but more importantly there's nothing really new or worthy this year in the netbook category.  Except that everyone got into it.

2010 will change that some with the nVidia Ion platform and Intel's Pine Trail Atom.  Now, performance is just on the edge of low-end laptops (enough for HD video) and battery life is 20+ percent better.  It's viable to get 10 hours of life from a 6-cell battery.  The 9" form factor I have in my 901 turned out to be kind of a dead-end (as did the 7" before) - what's making the platform now are the 10" and 12" screens.  They allow space for keyboards that are much more usable (the letter keys are within a couple percent of full-size and the other keys are a little shrunken to make up for it - 12" models usually have a real keyboard).  The only other dead-end in most models was the use of SSD - I for one will miss that a lot since it made them more rugged.

The model I consider next year will have a 1366x768 screen (the one I have now is 1024x600), likely a 160 or 250GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM standard, and it'll probably include Windows 7 Starter.  Not bad for a netbook.  Double the RAM and upgrade to Windows 7 Pro, and we're looking at a real laptop for under $400 that'll run for a full work day and then some on batteries.

And you wonder why Apple's pretty much the only PC maker making big profits.  All that margin the other companies used to have vanished in the netbook frenzy.  Which, by the way, is also why Apple doesn't play in that segment.

Latest iPhone nonsense

There's a post today on TUAW that breathlessly speculates that Apple's WWDC has booked Moscone from 6/28 through 7/2 (likely - they always book dates anonymously until it's actually announcement time) because that way they can announce an iPhone for Verizon and/or other US carriers (not likely).

Let me repeat myself one more time: Until the move to 4G (which may begin this coming year), Apple is highly unlikely to ever produce a version of the iPhone for CDMA carriers.  And by "highly unlikely" I mean "no chance in hell".  Now, let me remind you all as to why:

- The GSM 3G standard is what is used in virtually all of the world
- CDMA is entering its final run, 4G will replace it
- CDMA data networks cannot handle simultaneous voice and data
- All Apple gets from Verizon or Sprint is a small portion of their market, max
- Right now Apple makes one iPhone (yes, they still produce the older 3G as the entry model, and yes they make one without wifi for China - but it's still the same base phone and the chipsets are GSM-only), not two

In essence, Apple makes an iPhone for almost all of world + dog, excepting two US carriers and part of South Korea.  And they have the largest US GSM carrier in the fold.  The two US carriers they don't support are migrating to newer 4G technologies over the next year, and the largest CDMA carrier (Verizon) is migrating to LTE for 4G - same as AT&T.  CDMA is a dead end.  Why support it now?

Not that folks wouldn't buy a Verizon iPhone, even with the limitations that Verizon's network put on it.  They would.  But the reason I say "no way" is because Apple just is too smart to throw the engineering resources at a product with a very limited shelf life when they can get a lot better return by being on top of 4G.

And that day - Verizon'll be first in line, I bet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And the winner is...

I did a little household survey to figure out which of the non-computer gadgets is the house favorite.  I polled all the residents and spent about a minute tabulating the data (I voted along with my wife and child - the cat declined to comment and asked to be taken off our polling list).  Here are the top 3, in traditional pageant format:

Second Runner-Up: Roomba.  We have to at least pick stuff off the floor before pushing the button, but it saves us vacuuming runs when we use it.  A good thing.

First Runner-Up: iPhone.  We all have them (David's got an old one with the chip removed that he plays games on instead of me buying him an iPod Touch).  It redefined what the phone could do.  But AT&T sucks just enough, and other cell phones are usable enough, that it's not our ├╝ber gadget.

And the winner: TiVo (Series 3).  We've been loyal TiVo owners for almost 8 years now, with 5 years on the original Series 2 and now 3 years on the Series 3.  It looks like the hard drive on it is starting to get flakey, and we're trying desperately to decide if we want to fix this soon (and put in a bigger one while we're at it) or hold out a couple more months in the hope that there will finally be a Series 4 shipping.

TiVo's become so integral to the TV experience since we started using it that the risk of having it out of service is painful to everyone here!  That's why it won.  But TiVo has a long way to go just to catch up to modern TV and cable systems.  What they need badly (and this is why we're hoping for a Series 4 soon):

- Tru2Way support (so we can finally patch in to On Demand and PPV)
- SDV support to handle the newer cable systems without an adapter
- Better networking and the ability to transmit from box to box in real time.  The way Verizon's DVR does it (multi-room viewing)
- Bring the UI into the HD era.
- More native storage.  No reason to have anything less than a 1TB drive anymore.
- One or two more tuners on-board.  Right now you get two.  Or add one tuner and devote it to live TV so you can record two shows while viewing one other live.

And please, whatever you do, do it soon!  We only have one TV, and no cable box other than our TiVo - I don't want ours to die and then be forced back to the dark ages!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Still not seeing it (a Verizon iPhone, that is)

First of all, if there was a Verizon iPhone on the horizon, would Verizon be trying so hard to piss off Apple with their Android push?  I think not.

Second, Verizon likes to re-brand everything.  Apple has established that they don't play that game.  Verizon's never caved on that point for any handset maker to date.

Third, Verizon and AT&T have roughly equal US market shares.  Apple sells a huge amount of iPhones here, but they also play in the (overwhelmingly UTMS) global market.  Why devote resources to one carrier?

Fourth, UTMS 3G networks allow simultaneous voice/data.  CDMA/EVDO does not.  iPhone uses that as a major selling point.  Why take a capability away from the iPhone on purpose?

Finally - CDMA is on the way out and it's a niche anyway on a global scale.  LTE is replacing CDMA at Verizon, beginning next year.  Also, it's what AT&T is switching to, along with most global cell networks.  CDMA iPhone?  Nope.  LTE iPhone?  Absolutely.  Maybe in 2010?  Outside possibility, but definitely by 2011.

And at that point, maybe Verizon will start selling it.  Which is consistent with what I've been saying for about a year and a half now (ever since the original iPhone 3G came out) and for some reasons the "expert analysts" keep reading tea leaves they don't understand to say otherwise.

Is there a possibility Apple might introduce a device with ties to Verizon before that?  Anything is possible, but I think the idea that the "legendary Apple iMediaTablet" or something like it would be a CDMA device here and a UTMS device elsewhere is unlikely.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why Verizon's Droid phone has already lost the war

Sure, Verizon has the best 3G coverage nationwide.  They're about 2 years ahead of AT&T in deployment, and they have virtually all of the nation blanketed with signal, especially since the Alltel integration.  In that regard, the Verizon network has all sorts of advantages.  But there's catches to it, as well:

• Verizon's EVDO 3G doesn't handle voice and data simultaneously.  Check the web, your phone probably goes to voicemail - or the call interrupts your web session for the duration.  All EVDO phones have worked this way as long as I've seen them (AT&T's counter-ads even point this out).

• CDMA/EVDO is the technology dead-end.  It's going to vanish with the deployment of 4G (LTE) and in fact the LTE transition that will start next year will likely neutralize any advantage either carrier has at this point - AT&T and Verizon are both deploying it.  Advantage - AT&T, since LTE is basically an extension of the GSM standards used everywhere in the world but on Sprint and Verizon's networks.

• AT&T has the baggage of only being about 2 years old.  Really.  The current AT&T was born from the purchase of Cingular Wireless by the then much smaller AT&T.  They spent a lot of the last couple of years trying to integrate the various networks they'd picked up - and that's part of why 3G deployment's only begun to accelerate over the last year.  They still don't have the data footprint that Verizon has, but that's going to grow fast.  I'm not an AT&T fanboi but the gap will continue to shrink fast.

• The current (app-running) incarnation of the iPhone is only 16 months old right now.  But that's a huge first-mover advantage for Apple - they've sold over 20 million of these puppies world-wide.  And they're a moving target.  Sure, some features have been improved upon by the competition, but Apple keeps coming out and moving the goal line - adding upon the numbers lead as they do so.

Is Verizon going to sell plenty of Droids?  Sure.  It's the best smartphone (based on specs) they've had yet.  It'll be the default purchase instead of the bag-of-hurt Windows Mobile phones.  Android, too, is a viable phone OS - it's pretty much going to kill off Windows Mobile and probably Symbian, though, as well as all the other "Linux for phone OS" devices out there.  That's good for the industry.  Not going to touch iPhone or Blackberry.

The major dilemma for Android as an OS is the same one RIM has with Blackberries.  Right now, you can develop an application for iPhone, compile it, and run it on any device running Mac OS X Touch.  iPhones 1-3GS, iPod Touch, and devices to be announced later.  It's one platform, one binary.  On the other hand, virtually every Blackberry is a unique device, requiring a unique build of software.  From what I've seen so far, Android looks like the latter, not the former.  That's not going to help.

For a learning experience, Apple didn't come out and advertise what the other phones didn't do.  They showed us what the iPhone could do, and how easy it all was.  And they have steadily added the things that power phone users found lacking - and made it easy for most developers to get their wares in front of an audience.  From what Verizon's indicating, they've focused on making an iPhone Plus, rather than a new way of using a mobile phone.  Apple did it the other way around.  Which is why they won.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Closer to a-Kindling...

Amazon cut the price of the Kindle 2 by $40 today, and introduced a GSM-based version (on AT&T's network) that will still cost $20 less than it did yesterday (new prices are $259 and $279, respectively - down from $299). I'm getting closer to Want status.

The magic point for me will be when it drops below $200 and gets native PDF support. Then I'll use it as a repository for all my tech manuals that I have in PDF format, and I'll read an occasional mass-market book on it as well.

Monday, October 05, 2009

iDon't get the hype

Apple may or may not at some point come out with a tablet computer. So what? Maybe Steve Jobs is playing chess while I'm playing checkers, but I just can't see virtually any tablet device that would be more than a niche device. Sure, tablets are useful in some industrial and commercial settings, but that's never been Apple's game. Apple plays consumer ball nowadays - along with their traditional high-end and creative pro markets. Here's the easiest questions to ask in order to figure out if a tablet computer has a place in the consumer market or not:

• What's faster, typing or writing (natural language, not some weird variation like Palm's old Graffiti input)?
• What's faster, easier, and more discreet to do in public, typing or speaking?
• Assuming a tablet computer could have easy, fast input and could run acceptably long on a charge, where do you stow it when it's not in use?
• Do you cry when a tablet computer falls down and breaks? Or do you just curse a couple of times and then go buy a replacement?
• Can it be cheap and rugged enough to not worry about?

Of course, Apple already knows how to make a reasonably rugged device that has good battery life, runs a desktop OS, and can perform the most needed functions of most desktop computers. In fact, it's called the iPhone. And it sells a hundred for every likely iTablet sale. Now, I could be completely full of nonsense here, but I just don't see a way for Apple to build a "tablet" computer that can fit my criteria above and still be cheap enough to sell to the mass market.

What I do foresee (maybe even as early as tomorrow) is a scaled-down version of the MacBook that can be sold at a $700 or so price point. That's likely to come - Apple won't play in the low-margin netbook space per se, but they'll provide a barebones laptop for people looking to trade up. They will keep driving the cost down on their consumer desktops, too - it's OK, because they make so much cash on iPhones that they can afford to shave the margins a little on the consumer systems. I see the big marketshare push starting soon. The potential isn't there to break Windows, but there's no reason that Apple can't have a happy, profitable 20-25% of the marketplace. It's more do-able now than it has been in years.

But there ain't no iTablet in that picture, and I doubt there will be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dear everyone crapping on Apple today

Yes, I know Apple's only supported MMS since the release of the 3.0 software this year. Yes, I also know that MMS has been on many phones since the beginning of the decade when the first crappy camera phones came out. And yes, I know I'm also arguably an Apple fanboi.

But you know what? The last phone I had before my iPhone was a Verizon Treo 700p. It had MMS, and I could send pics when the phone didn't crash instead. The Treo was such a big steaming pile of Fail that I virtually never tried, plus the camera was horrible. The Treo 650 I had before it? Same crap, slower network. I can see a use for MMS, but you know what? I haven't missed it these last two-plus years.

And why not, you ask? Well, last time I checked, the iPhone could take its pictures and use this funky technology called "e-mail" to send them to not only most smartphones (because real phones support e-mail) but these big boxes called desktop computers as well. Go figure. MMS is "nice-to-have" but given that the phone has such a robust e-mail client it's not exactly a "must-have" now, is it?

Now the fact that every other smartphone out there is allowed to tether but AT&T won't let iPhone users do it? That's pure unadulterated Suck on the part of AT&T. Apple provided it, though - it's just that the piss-poor management at AT&T are afraid that their network will suddenly be overwhelmed by people connecting via their computers.

Weasels. Fix your damned network and stop worrying about an apocalypse.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Snow Leopard - Quick Hits

I got it and installed while I was on vacation last week (work never rests). Here's a few quick tidbits:

• Installation is faster than traditional OS installs. A lot of it is preloaded to HD during the initial phase - unlike previous versions of OS X the Snow Leopard installer is meant to run from your prior OS and do the preload.

• Total installation time - about 45 minutes. That included the preload phase.

• Boot time is faster, probably about 20-25% subjectively.

• Safari is fast in 64-bit mode. Unfortunately, right now the Safari AdBlock plugin doesn't work in 64-bit, only 32-bit. That slows it down a little and ditches some of the crashproofing that you get from the 64-bit version.

• Time Machine is way faster to a Time Capsule, and the status messages are more informative.

• Useful wake-from-sleep is quicker. Re-acquiring Airport signal is faster as well.

• Launch times on most applications are faster.

• I already know about this, but Kerio Mail Server does not work properly with iCal's CalDAV support. It's not Kerio's fault, but they expect to deal with it themselves in a minor update due in the next few days.

• Cisco VPN support could come in handy. Be nice to see CheckPoint added down the road as well (hint).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

End of the line

Cape May is a desolate place. And I say that without a trace of malice - I actually like it here. It's desolate in the sense that it's the end of the line, literally. Except for our rental house (a 1980's "Italianate" aka "Miami Vice" beast) the entire 2.5 miles of beachfront consists of old Victorian and/or Shingle homes that are all looking a little run down from the weather. There's some slightly more modern/generic condo complexes, and the hotels all date back to the 1950s, when Cape May was first redeveloped into a tourist town. Hotels are concrete with pools in front, overlooking the beach.

The downtown has a nice pedestrian mall area, with a carefully restored 5&10 store as a centerpiece. There are horse carriages. Along with about a half-dozen fudge/taffy/sweet stores. And the t-shirt emporiums. Hermit crabs are a popular sale item for the kiddies.

But even with all that niceness, Cape May still has that End City feel to it. There is one small supermarket. Unless you are in the military (and therefore eligible to use the Coast Guard PX), you have to leave and drive about 5-10 miles to pretty much get any supplies at a reasonable price. The beaches are enormous and usually packed - it's as far south as you can get and still be in the North. Next stop Delaware. The beaches are well-maintained (groomed nightly) but the rest of the town is looking a little battered. Houses a couple of blocks back from the beach are basically just Levittown-style for the most part.

There are standouts here. Congress Hall is an absolutely spectacular restoration of a turn-of-the-century hotel complex. It's immaculate, and you feel like you should dress up when you step into the lobby. The nightly flag ceremony at Sunset Beach is hokey, but wonderful all the same. There's a terrific bird sanctuary. Cape May County Zoo is a great destination, though it's actually 10 miles back up the road and out of Cape May proper.

But mainly the town is a retreat from the rest of the world - a place where there is no Starbucks (though the lines for coffee are impressive at the Wawa near the marinas), no big-time chain stores outside a small CVS and an Acme, and not much to do other than walk the pedestrian mall, hang out on the promenade or go to the arcades, and sit on the nearly endless beach.

Which is why I've gone there almost every year for the last decade-plus, and despite the traffic getting there will probably continue to do it for years to come. Nothing can be good.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back from the grave

Chrysler announced today that the PT Cruiser has gotten a reprieve and will no longer be discontinued after this model year.

Dumb move, though I understand why they made it. There's nothing else in the Chrysler or Fiat lineup that can realistically replace it this late in the game. But the car itself is a big bucket of meh that hasn't aged well, hasn't gotten any significant updates in years to keep up with the Joneses, and is the prime example of the "retro" style that was all the rage in the beginning of the decade but nowadays only can been seen at rental companies.

I drove one a few months back when my Honda was in the shop - the best thing I could say about it was that it ran. Ergonomics were horrible, the shifter was cutesy in a goofy-assed way, and the visibility was poor, particularly in the back where the oh-so-cute hatch is. The one redeeming quality to me was good headroom (I have the torso of a 6' 6" man - unfortunately for my ability to find clothes that fit I'm only 6' 3").

Please bring or release a better car for 2011. I don't want to see Chrysler fail again. At least GM is starting to make cars that people want.

And that concludes my most prolific blogging month of the year. Yow!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I don't care if Big Papi used roids

I don't care if A-Rod did them, or Barry Bonds, or anyone else, for that matter. A lot of folks were on the juice during the era from the early '90s until about 2003, when MLB finally got serious about testing. Some were on them briefly, some were long-time users, but damn near all of the players used at one point or another. We all knew it, too.

Here's the thing: I don't really care about then. I care about now. Since 2006 there's been a comprehensive testing program with punishment. That's what I care about. Positive tests before 2006? Whatever. Since 2006? Throw the book at 'em. Beforehand the loophole existed - PEDs were not always explicitly banned and so players got them every way they could.

So I don't care if Papi did steroids in 2003. So long as he doesn't use them nowadays, he's cool by me. Even A-Rod - I don't hate him because he did steroids. I hate him because he's a douche.

Hall of Fame? Different story. That's a numbers-driven business and the steroid users have better numbers. I think this is one of the key reasons Jim Rice finally got in this year - he was pretty much the last of the feared pre-steroid sluggers. I think the voters should be mentally adjusting lifetime stats for steroid use and then voting based on that adjustment. Roger Clemens? Probably still in. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa? Borderline. Palmiero? No way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cup silly season begins...

Domino #1 - Talented underachiever Martin Truex Jr. gets out of the moldering corpse of DEI (Earnhardt-Ganassi) and goes to take over the NAPA rida at Waltrip.

Domino #2 - DeWalt drops #17 sponsorship - a surprise after 10 years. Former series champ and current Daytona champ Matt Kenseth loses his sponsrship.

Domino #3 - Crown Royal moves from the #26 car to the #17, leaves Jamie McMurray out of a ride. Since Roush Fenway has to get down to 4 cars next season (they have 5 now - the #6, #16, #17, #26, and #99) and have the other 4 sponsored, that means the #26 is toast unless they can get a sponsor and move them to Yates Racing (a captive affiliate like Stewart-Haas is to Hendrick).

Domino #4 - Hot rumor as of today is that Reed Sorenson will be pulled from the #43 at Petty and AJ Allmendinger will be moved in. Then the $44 (which was only partially sponsored) will be shut down, leaving RPM with the #9, the #19, and the iconic #43. Good move - Sorenson is a respectable driver but vanilla, and Allmendinger is a real talent (Red Bull would have a race win for Vickers by now if they'd kept AJ in the #82 instead of the useless tool that Scott Speed is). Kasey Kahne brings his cougar fans anywhere he might go, and Elliot Sadler isn't much of a driver but he's a good presence for the sponsors. Kind of like a younger, slightly more talented Mikey Waltrip.

All the rest of the season's drama will be resolved pretty much by the time the Chase kicks off in Loudon a month and a half from now. Will Stewart-Haas get a third car? Will Danica come to NASCAR? Where does Brad Kesolowski go? Has Shrub lost his mojo? Who's going to drive the #1 car now, and is the Bass Pro Shops sponsorship worth driving for the mess that is EGR?

These and other questions answered (eventually) on "As the Sprint Cup Turns (left)..."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If she does run in 2012

All the other candidates will have to do to reduce Sarah Palin to an afterthought is play her farewell address. On TV. Unedited.

Wow, what a profoundly inarticulate moran.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple keeps teasing me

I want iPhone 3.1 software to ship now! They've held off on the traditional .01 release this time in the hopes of more functionality, but I really want the battery life improvements and new BT stack that's in the betas. I could get them through the dev program but I really don't want to...

This week's tone: Optimistic. Lots of pretty good stuff happening at the office.

David finished 1st grade today (his school has an alternative school year). Good report card. I played hooky this afternoon to join in the group celebration at the park with all his friends and their families. Which was nice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

After the fact

The weekend away was a lot of fun, though hot & sweaty. I got to schlep air conditioners around for my folks, but in the process got to install 2 bonus units. So we got to sleep well. But from the time I got home from work (in a high-speed run from Cambridge on Friday afternoon) to the time we finally arrived home late Sunday it was non-stop action - even if the action consisted of all recreation punctuated with driving.

The purpose of this trip brings me to one of my occasional personal essays (well, I'm not going to say anything that's not already public record to virtually anyone who knows me in the slightest, but it still feels personal):

I had a follow-up thought on my reunion post from the 15th now that it's actually happened. Kind of an anticlimax as it turned out. For me, once I got there I really felt like I had no reason to be there anymore. A few of my old friends were there - it was really nice to chat with a couple of them (Sue, if you're reading this, sincere congrats on what you've accomplished) but kind of superfluous. If I was on Facebook like half the universe (including my wife) I could have been in contact with the ones that were worth it.

What really struck me was that after the initial surprise that I was recognized by folks (let's just say that besides the LASIK there's a few differences between me then and me now - short grey hair and about 90 extra pounds among them) I really didn't have much desire to engage with them. I'm not a big reminiscer when it comes to talking (I don't mind doing it in writing because it's easier), and outside of a couple of high school pranks I played with help that I believe the Statute of Limitations has long since rendered safe there's not much from high school I really love talking about.

For me, high school was mainly notable as the thing I did to get to college and the place where I started to learn how to socialize with my actual peers (as opposed to just the folks I thought were peers but weren't). I did my 3 years, got out, and haven't looked back too much. Over the last 25 years it turns out there's only a handful of them I actively think about and care about. Even the core of friends I saw at my 10-year reunion have moved on for the most part.

25 years ago I was a tall, skinny, socially maladjusted geek wannabe with an budding interest in electronics, an obsessive interest in the tech aspects of sports (I loved cycling because I could fix my bike myself), and a knack for theater. 15 years ago I was beginning a career in tech management, three years into a marriage and the new owner of a house. Today I'm a real adult, with a child and a business, and I really don't know the other two people in this paragraph that well anymore.

So it wasn't a huge surprise to me that when dinner was served I just grabbed a table that nobody else was at, sat down with my wife, ate, and soon after took off for the evening. No Sherwood Diner in the wee hours for me this time around. I think we stayed about 2 hours total.

What I realized right around dinner (when I stopped chatting with folks and shut down my personality for the evening) was this: Of all the people at the reunion, the one I most wanted to socialize with and spend my time hanging out with was the one I brought with me. So I did! Thus endeth my nostalgia kick - probably for the remainder of my life. And there's the closure I spoke of on the 15th.

I'll talk about more interesting stuff next time out. If you glazed over the last few paragraphs, here's the bullet points as a summary:

• The reunion was a letdown.
• Because I've changed more than I thought I had.
• I'd rather spend time with my current friends and my family.
• Particularly my wife.
• Living in the moment beats living in the past.
• A few of my classmates have put together cool lives, though.

And with this post completed I'm now one away from tying my monthly high for this year. Not impressive. I'm really using Twitter a lot more lately.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dwindling numbers

I have my 25th high school reunion this weekend - I do recall a much larger turnout for the 10th, but this one will be more interesting to me, though many of the people I liked (or at least respected) aren't on the list. Enough are to make it worthy.

At the 10th reunion, many of us were still the people we were at 18. At 43, we're all truly grown up now. Pretty much all of us who will have children have done so by now, we've all moved into our final careers (not employers, careers), and where we live now is probably pretty much where we're going to stay right up until dirtnap time.

The 25th is kind of closure, you know?

The Playmate System of measuring age

I suspect that most males born before the late 1970s (who would remember when magazines were popular and when Playboy was a significant print icon) either use or would understand this measurement system. Mind you, I haven't read a print copy in years (literally - I think the last time I bought one was in the early '90s) so I don't have that much actual biographical info to go by other than what's on Wikipedia but I have a way of measuring my relative age by the average age of Playboy Playmates (according to Google this is about 21-22):

You're a kid when: Playmates are old enough to be your babysitter.

You're a young adult when: Playmates are old enough to be in school with you.

You've peaked when: Playmates are your age.

You're getting older when: Playmates are the age of your kid sister (assuming you have one).

You're middle aged when: Playmates were born around the year you met your spouse (That's where I am right now)

You're old when: Playmates are the age to be your kid's babysitter.

It's all over when: Playmates are younger than your kid.

I think this could be developed further, but I really don't have a browser suitable for doing the research...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kindle - why I still don't want one

First of all - I absolutely love the Amazon Kindle. I've held them and read on them, and I think the current generation is a terrific device. Battery life is outstanding, the screen is a marvel, and the form factor is lightweight and easy to work with. Now that they cut the price, it's even better.

But I won't buy one. Still. And the reason is simple. The feature set of the larger model (the DX) has a real PDF tool (so I can sync up books and materials I already own), can auto-rotate the screen, and is just big enough for me to read as well as a book. But the price is just way too high (almost $500) and the keyboard isn't as good as the one on the smaller Kindle. So that's blocking me.

The other problem is the way Amazon implemented their book DRM. I want to know I can either back up the contents and restore them using my computer or automatically re-download them on a replacement Kindle at any point. Amazon has download limits that vary by the title. I'm not 100% certain enough about the fate of my e-books to completely buy in.

The last major issue is the screen. It's beautiful, but 16 levels of gray isn't quite enough for me (give me 32 and I'll be happy), plus I want low-level backlighting that will let me read in darkened places. I'm happy to turn it off to save battery life most of the time.

But mainly it's just still too pricey. When the DX is selling for $200 (and the smaller model is $100) then I may think about it. But given the price of content I can't justify it.

The only compelling, overpriced technology I still want anyways is a Segway. Amazing I've been able to hold out all these years.

Monday, July 06, 2009

iPhone Reloaded (reloaded)

So I haven't blogged in almost a month, since WWDC while I was on vacation, in fact. I mainly have been using Twitter since then, and I think the main reason is that Twitter is pretty much frictionless - while blogging requires actual thought and planning. Is microblogging the future? I dunno, but it is what I've been doing lately and there may be a reason. We're also about to finally put the long-awaited tech blog on my office website, and use that to post useful articles for clients and prospects. We've got a redesign coming shortly as well.

In the meantime, the iPhone 3.0 (iPhone 3GS) was released, and of course UPS brought me one on the first morning. I upgraded my phone right away (made easier because I'd already installed the 3.0 software on my older 3G on Wednesday). All has been well, with a few notes I'll give you bullet points of below:

• The 3GS is noticeably faster than the 3G in all areas of operation. The extra processing power and RAM make a big impact.

• Battery life is about the same - data-intensive operation in 3G mode still sucks down power pretty fast. I keep a charged Mophie JuicePack Air in my bag in case I'll be away from a charger all day. It hasn't run dry, but it goes down fast enough to notice. Rumor has it the next software update (3.1) will help power management somewhat, and that wouldn't surprise me.

• Bluetooth is basically a little screwy. Major upgrades seem to bring this out. In particular, I am having some trouble with my trusty Jawbone (now the Prime). It disconnects at bad times, and the LED disable function no longer works. I had similar issues when the 3G (and the 2.0 OS) shipped - I expect 3.1 to help a lot and it's due shortly. This is a trend. I've been working out lately with walks so I have a Motorola S9 Bluetooth stereo headset on the way. I'll report on that later but it seems to be the best option right now for stereo.

• Some have commented on wifi issues - I'm not really having any. I messed up my home DHCP server so I was having some other issues but all seems OK.

• Call quality is notably better, and places that were dead zones on the 3G are now OK. Amazingly. AT&T is still cruddy, but the 3GS is a good enough phone to compensate!

• I tested tethering using a hacked carrier file before I got the 3G. Results should be about the same as with the 3GS because the network hasn't been provisioned to the higher speeds that the 3GS supports. That said, the second AT&T makes tethering support official, I'm all over it and will happily ditch my Verizon EVDO card. Oh yeah. I'm expecting it to cost another $15, which will be par for smartphone tethering but a major cut from the $60 I pay Verizon right now.

• The new "oleophobic" screen? Maybe, but I put a protector on it about 5 minutes after I took it out of the box. So no feedback there.

• People are complaining about heat issues, too. I don't doubt them but I am having no such problems. And mine is white, too.

• The camera is better, and I like the new focus and metering functions. It'd be nice if a hardware button triggered the shutter, but I'm OK with it as-is. I haven't really played with video too much yet because we do most of our video on an HD camcorder.

So in a nutshell, this phone is swank. Plus I got to give my wife a 3G in the deal! That's a no-lose proposition.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One thing for sure

Using the Verizon dongle (with the ensuing VZ Access Manager clusterfark in switching locations and messing up all my VPN configs) is enough of a pain in the arse while on vacation that I'm really looking forward to when tethering is live on the new iPhone OS. Of course, AT&T will find a way to screw it up - guaranteed. But so long as they price it under $60 per month it'll be a no-brainer.

Of course, the bastards there know that, and they'll charge $55 or something equally abusive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Man things

This weekend my son turned seven. So we spent this afternoon hunting the majestic wild fish - much fun was had by all, much mud was flung and worn by all (we were working the flats by Kernwood on the ebbing tide), and the fish eluded our onslaught.

I didn't see anyone else having any luck, either, though. And I'd say that the cast/exploring the shore ratio for the two of us was particularly low. It was kind of funny - after each successful cast he'd want to try a different lure. Plus he was wondering why a foot-long Sluggo wouldn't work on his lightweight 7-foot fishing rod. Tough to explain. I will say that the shore looks a lot more solid at low tide than it actually is. If I ever go to work that spot again, I'll bring waders instead of lace-up Crocs.

At what age does David have to grow up some - and do I ever have to myself, too? I hope not.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

They aren't taking my advice - duh...

I don't actually expect the folks at NASCAR to take anything resembling advice from me, but here's what they ought to do to fix sagging TV ratings and track attendance:

- Like I've said before, instead of the top 12 in the Chase, put the top 10 (or 12) plus anyone within a certain point threshold. I think 500 or 600 points is good. And/or any driver who's team has made every start and won at least one race. That would let pretty much any legit top 35 team that gets a win in, and leaves out the flukes like Talladega (where anything can happen). You might wind up with as many as 15 drivers in the Chase that way - not a big bump but at least folks know they're in reach.

- Re-seed the Chase back the way it was originally, but give bonus points for wins. It's not fair when a driver (like Gordon) goes into the chase with a huge points lead but then winds up re-seeded behind someone with a lot fewer points but more wins.

- As long as I'm on it, change the Top 35 rule to the Top 30. Having 13 slots open for the race will make qualifying a lot more interesting and really doesn't screw any contending team out of the show.

- Re-engineer the CoT to make the tires at least 2 inches wider. Wider tire=more grip=better racing. This is something I know is in the works, but it should be sped up.

- Adjust the aero properties to make being out in front a little less of an advantage.

- Pull back the splitter a couple of inches so you have fewer tire rips caused by splitter contact.

- Drop a couple of the 1.5 mile tracks (or at least some of the second races on them). Drop one of the Pocono races (they're boring). In exchange, add a couple more short-track races and put a second Darlington race back on the schedule. Maybe even Rockingham again. And put a little banking in at Loudon. Mile tracks are fun when you can run hot into a corner. Wouldn't mind seeing another road race besides Sonoma and Watkins Glen, too. It wouldn't kill anyone to turn right a little more often.

- I like the Homestead track, but I think Vegas would be a better place to wind up the season. Especially since they're having the awards banquet there now.

- Finally, change the rules to make the Nationwide Series a developmental circuit again. Limit the number of races that Cup regulars can race. Less Buschwhacking will mean more drivers on an even basis on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Movie report

I didn't mention it before, but we saw Watchmen in Imax a few weeks back. Cool movie, very dark, worth the trip for Imax. Of course, I read the book about 25 years ago. Hated Silk Spectre's wig - it looked way too fake. Rorschach was, as reported by most critics, awesome. The ending change wasn't bad, considering that it would have been tough to create the monster, even with CGI - plus it would have forced a lot more backstory into an already long film.

Most recent Apple TV rental - Mamma Mia! (which was a blast). Jane and I really enjoyed it, David not quite so much but he liked the singing. Poor Pierce Brosnan. He gave it a game effort, and he really is a sorely underrated actor, but he sang like a strangled bison. Thankfully he remained close to on-key, but I've seen the list of people I can out-sing and it's a short one. I do believe his name is on it, though.

In general, we've become big Apple TV fans here. I don't even have a DVD player hooked up right now (not enough HD analog inputs on my sound system and I can't convert HDMI to Component) - the only ones we have that have been worth repeat watching have been ripped by me and uploaded to the Apple box. Everything else we watch is on-demand from either iTunes on the Apple box or Amazon via the TiVo.

I have seen the future of content delivery, and shiny discs are not it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Addendum/Correction/Post Padding

First, the correction: Right Guard is no longer a P&G product - they divested it when they bought Gillette. I'd forgotten.

Now, to add in a theme of mine (and annoy my folks - heh), as those of you who read this blog are aware, I'm a motorsports fan. In particular, I like NASCAR (the other stuff I'll watch but it's the stock cars I'm into). Unlike most, though, I have drivers I like but no loyal-to-the-end favorite - and I also have no loyalty to their brands, either. So you won't see me walking around in a DuPont jacket (like my son does) or wearing a Mountain Dew AMP hat (like Junior Nation does).

But I do have a couple of drivers I like more than the other. In particular, I've always liked Tony Stewart - he's got a temper, he's kind of a schlubby-looking guy, and he'll drive the wheels off anything he gets into. Drives really old-school. But his old team was sponsored by a company that annoys me (Home Depot) and his owner was a sanctimonious born-again douchebag (Gibbs Racing). Then Tony left to form his own team, picked a number that was a tribute to one of the all-time great drivers (14), and all seemed lined up to finally embrace a driver's team. But then he wound up with Office Depot and Old Spice as his primary sponsors. Well, Office Depot is so far behind Staples it's a joke (I do all my business at Staples - and Office Depot just pulled out of my region for the second time in a decade), and Old Spice is a P&G brand. So much for the #14 t-shirt - neither of those are brands I would want to promote!

Still root for Smoke on the racetrack, though.

Not to mention that by explaining all this I've padded my April post count to a whopping three. Yow!

In the news

P&G profits are down... at least part of that is because of us, so I'm proud.

More seriously with that thought - we don't boycott them entirely (even though that's my wife's ex-employer) but ever since she got her notice almost a year ago we've generally tried to buy the alternative/generic product in any category where we'd otherwise be buying a P&G product. What's amazing is just how many product categories they are in - it's really tough to avoid their brands.

The biggest thing for us was replacing Tide, Cascade, and Bounty paper towels with the Costco-branded alternatives. Even if P&G manufactures those for Costco (which I don't believe they do), they should make less money that way. On the other hand, I'm still using Right Guard and Gillette shaving cream. One does not grow a full beard for that sort of principle!

I know better than to think that we actually make any difference at all like that. But it's the gesture more than the reality that matters sometimes. I still haven't bought a Boston Herald since they ran the picture on the cover of a dying Victoria Snelgrove in 2004. I didn't read it often and they really don't care about my avoidance, but it matters to me and that's all that counts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First real sign of spring

I went to the MIT Flea yesterday. That's when spring really starts. Everything else is just a warmup.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hardware hackology

The major afternoon project - I went out and upgraded my Time Capsule to take a 1TB drive.

Cost of a Time Capsule: $299
Cost of a 1TB Time Capsule: $499

Cost of a 1TB WD Caviar Green drive: $110
Leftover 500GB Caviar Blue (what was in my Time Capsule before surgery): Useful.

It was pretty easy - You do need to peel off the rubber bumper on the bottom first, but there will be enough glue left over to easily stick it back on. Then there's a host of small Philips screws to remove, and the drive swap itself is quick. There is a temperature sensor you will have to re-place, and standoffs mounted to the lower drive chassis that need to be removed and moved to the new drive. But with the Caviar Green in place, operating temperature seems significantly lower, and the box is quieter as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

And the point is?

So Microsoft's agency (Crispin Porter) is now directly going after Apple. Great. Don't you think they could have found something better for "Lauren, who is a real person" (but is also an actress and has a union card)?

The flip side is that there's plenty of areas Apple doesn't compete well in - and the low point of the market definitely is one of those areas. Though the HP she picked is a turd. In her defense, she comes across well and is cute. She lives in the netherworld of "not cool enough for Macs, but cool enough to have a VW", and that's a good-sized market.

She is an actress, after all - I agree with the Infoworld Cringely (as opposed to the "classic" one) and think it'd be fun to check up on her in a couple of months.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just to reinforce my smug

I was off by a week, but the iPhone software 3.0 announcement was pretty much right on track with my earlier comments. Neener.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Dumb tech quotes of 2009, part 1


“Think about it -- If you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market,” said McNamee, 52. “Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.”

(Roger McNamee is with Elevation Partners, the major investor in Palm)

Uh, maybe another iPhone? Probably the 2009 model?

Because they like their iPhone, Roger - plus they'd have to give up/rebuy all their applications in order to switch to a Pre. It's called "lock-in. Apple has it. If you guys had done something over the last 4 years besides crappy PalmOS Treos and "me-too" Windows Mobile clones (remember? Palm gave up on their "OS of the future" strategy about a dozen times in that stretch) you could have gotten there yourselves.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Had I only known

I ordered Jane's Valentine's Day flowers through ProFlowers. Well, the price wasn't bad and they arrived in good shape. But had I realized that I'd get email from either ProFlowers or one of their affiliates virtually every day since, and that "unsubscribe" doesn't seem to get noticed by them, I might not have bothered ordering the flowers online at all. They are pains in the ass of a high order.

Just a warning...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Another shoe may be dropping soon

Apple updated almost everything this morning. New Mac Pros, new iMacs, new minis, all pretty much as expected. They also added a few other goodies. The 15" MacBook Pro had its processor speed bumped up a tiny bit in the middle configuration, 256GB SSD is now available for the MacBook and 15" MacBook Pro (it was initially only available on the 17"), and there's a new wired keyboard sans numeric keypad. No wireless keyboard with the pad yet, though. Rats.

Also added were new models of both the Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme base station, now supporting goodies like a second SSID for guests (that's firewalled off from the main network), and dual-band operation. Cool. I wonder if any of those features will make it via software to the current model (like maybe the guest network support).

They also added a trick for remote access to a Time Capsule via .Mac that looks interesting.

Now for the other shoe. A lot of whispers have been going on the last few days that Apple's planning an event for 3/24. Well, if that's true then there's something else coming out that's basically not a Mac. Because the entire line is now refreshed since October when the initial unibody laptops came out (the 17" and nVidia whitebook were in January, now everything else consumer today). Xserve wasn't updated today, but that's not a big deal. No pressing reason to move it over from Harpertown to Nehalem right now anyways - and that alone doesn't justify an Apple event.

My guesses: either an announcement that Snow Leopard has gone GM (with a release date 30-45 days later) or something iPhone-related. Either which way, if there is in fact an Apple event this'll likely be the last major thing from them before WWDC midyear.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Super Bowl sum-up

Two teams I didn't care about. Commercials that weren't that interesting. The game itself was OK, with a pretty good second half and a wild finish, but I will say that every possible call went the Steelers' way. I still would have called the INT return down at about the 1-foot line, because it seemed clear to me that his body touched before the ball crossed the line. I also think the final play was an incomplete pass (I think it wouldn't have made a difference - they needed a touchdown and had, at best, one more play after that).

The one sidenote to the INT was this: If you watch the play, Fitzgerald just sort of loafs in the end zone for a few seconds instead of trying to make a play on the defender. Finally, after he runs it out about 20 yards Fitzgerald takes off after him and makes the play in the end - had he gone right after him that play might never have gotten down to the end zone in the first place. I'm just sayin'.

It was a fun night, though - Super Bowl parties are always more entertaining as parties when teams I don't care about are in it. Our son is absolutely dragging this morning (he still made it to school, though) even though he slept in the car on our way home.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Newsflash

Downloading pirated software from a BitTorrent feed is likely to infect your system with a trojan. Even if you have a Mac. Don't do it.

Keep using your Mac for your pirated music, movies, tv, and porn, though. Media piracy is safer on a Mac. Believe it or not, though, the only thing I do that even vaguely breaks the rules is I take my legitimately purchased DVDs and rip them to .MP4 files so I can put them on my AppleTV. I don't share them, and I don't rip discs I don't own. I pay for my music, use TiVo for my TV, and, well, I've been on the Internet long enough that porn just isn't all that big a deal. So my advice to you in sentence one of this paragraph? I don't even follow it.

My main point in telling you all this is that I've never had one of my systems infected by any form of malware. PC or Mac. Ever. It's easy to do. Just use an ad-blocker on your browser (I prefer AdBlock Plus on Firefox, cross-platform - or SafariBlock on Mac), keep anti-virus software current on a PC (AVG, Trend, and Kapersky are all ones I like), and don't believe anything you get via e-mail. Then resist the temptation to click on links that offer you forbidden temptations, say "no" when something you didn't explicitly load asks you for a password (the biggest reason Macs are usually safer) and bang - you're all set and safe.

That way you don't have to pay me (or worse, Geek Squad!) to come and fix it for you. Yay!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

About frakkin' time

We now officially have a non-suckass President.  It's been 8 years since we had one of those.  Boo-yah!

That, and David lost his first tooth this past Saturday.  That's got more immediate impact upon my life, but having Obama as President'll help too.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Apple TV, Day 2

So my holiday gift from Jane was an Apple TV (well, actually it was a gift card to buy the Apple TV because she thought an Apple TV was an actual TV set and figured she couldn't carry it). I set it up yesterday, immediately hacked it to add Boxee, and then I embarked on a project.

The project: take my DVD collection and put as much of it as I can on the Apple TV (I got the 160GB version). Handbrake has done a quick job of it (though the newer version isn't working right on my iMac, so I'm using the 0.92 version on my MacBook Pro for now). I've ripped four movies so far (Stop Making Sense, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Real Genius, and Apollo 13), and will do more over the weekend. I've loaded more movies on this than I have on my DVD jukebox!

I haven't done any movie rentals yet, though. Coming soon. At some point I may try and hack a bigger drive into it, too. Nice device.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Perfect storm...

The economy's diving into the crapper, the peak energy prices from last year, and the collapse of the auto industry have combined to give motorsports a big kick in the teeth in 2009. F1 isn't coming to North America at all this year (their only trip to the Western Hemisphere is the Sao Paulo race in October), NASCAR's truck series had to get a discount sponsor (Camping World) after Sears pulled out, Indycar is still feeling aftereffects of the Champ Car merger, and in Sprint Cup at least 3 of last year's teams have closed shop entirely (the 01, 15, and 40). Besides that, in the world of Cup we've also seen several teams merge to survive, dropping teams in the process.

- DEI merged with Ganassi, switching Ganassi to Chevy from Dodge in the process

- As of today, Petty has merged with Gillett Evernham, going from a 5-6 car team to 4 cars (only the #43 of Petty will make the move)

- Bill Davis Racing was sold and may not run in 2009

- Furniture Row Racing will only run part-time with 1 car (they had been 1 full-time, 1 part-time)

- The former Wood Brothers #47 is now an affiliate team of Michael Waltrip Racing. GOod for them, because without that Waltrip goes from 3 cars down to 2 (the #00 team was shut down, though the number is being moved to the former #44 team)

- The #4 team is gone (Morgan-McClure)

- The Wood Brothers have kept the #21, but now it'll be a part-time car

- Several races (most notably the Watkins Glen race) have lost sponsorship

Basically, in 2007 there were as many as 8 cars being turned away each Sunday. Last year, there were a couple of cars most weeks that didn't qualify, but the cast varied. In 2009, there will be a few races where NASCAR will be lucky to get a full field of 43.

In other motorsports, Honda is closing their F1 team, and both Subaru and Suzuki pulled out of World Rally Championships.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway sends us a Christmas card every year, by the way. Just thought I should mention it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Idle thoughts going into this new year

In March, my company will have made it to 5 years in business. I'm not sure if I expected to make it there, but that's sobering. When I worked at the insurance company, I only was there a few months past 5 years before getting laid off (in the last downturn), and I was at the company before that a hair less than six years. So this is historically about my shelf life, except this time I should make it the whole way through my career. Which is both sobering and cool at the same time.

Wow.

On a much lighter note, my son will turn seven this spring. And I was thinking tonight about things I grew up with as a child that are utterly alien to him now. And all the things he has that I never even imagined. For instance:

- He will never know what the Central Artery was like.
- When we went to Florida back in November, he asked why we were stopping at the tollbooth. We never have to do that. Ever.
- He's never seen a cassette tape. And he doesn't remember what a videocassette was, either.
- There hasn't been a film camera in this house used regularly (including my poor neglected Nikon 6006) since about 2000. Virtually all his friends have digital.
- Though he has some CDs, he's not used to using them. He uses iTunes.
- TV in David's world can always be paused. He even knows how to operate the TiVo.
- I had my first computer (an Apple IIc with a monochrome monitor) when I was 18. He's had a Mac since he was 2.
- Videoconferencing. He can talk to my parents or his cousins on the Mac anytime he wants to. Even though they are all in different states.
- He thinks everyone keeps their phone in their pocket. The first time he saw a payphone it was confusing for him.
- Rotary-dial phones. WTF?
- He thinks most cars have DVD players or nav systems built-in.
- When I was a kid? Walkmans were a big deal. I got my first one as a teenager. For him - iPods are cool, but he wants one that plays movies.
- He takes the Internet for granted. Everywhere.
- And he's never seen a vinyl record.
- I believe I was a teenager when we got a microwave oven. He know how to operate ours.
- Doesn't every kid carry a game console in their pocket, along with their cell phone?
- What's a floppy disk?
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